Parenting

How to Keep Kids Busy While Waiting in Public

Rely on Old-Fashioned Games to Pass Time and Keep Children Quiet

Trying to keep kids busy while waiting in public can be stressful, but old-fashioned games can pass the time and keep kids quiet.

Even the best-prepared parents occasionally find themselves waiting in public with kids and having nothing to occupy their time. Whether it’s waiting in an office with no CDs or children’s books, sitting in an exam room with no toys, or standing in line for what feels like an eternity, old-fashioned kid songs, word games, and hand games can help keep kids busy and quiet.

Keep Toddlers Busy with Kid Songs

Trying to keep toddlers busy while waiting in public can be a Herculean task. Fortunately, the fact that toddlers love repetition can help to keep them busy with kid songs. While singing endless rounds of the “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” may bore a parent to tears at home, a toddler may be fascinated by this while sitting in a doctor’s office.

“Where is Thumbkin?” is also a great song for keeping toddlers or preschoolers busy with a song and hand movements. “Where is Thumbkin?” is sung to the tune of “Frere Jacques,” and asks where each finger is hiding. Changing voices for each finger and exaggerating each finger running away can delight toddlers while waiting in public.

Another song to keep preschoolers busy in public is “Head, shoulders, knees, and toes.” The body movements help toddlers get their wiggles out while waiting. This song isn’t a great option for waiting in line or sitting in a waiting room but works well when behind the closed door of an exam room.

Word Games Keep Kids Busy in Public

Playing word games is a great way to keep kids busy in public because games can be adjusted to the age of the child involved. “I, Spy” is a simple word game that can be tailored to toddlers and preschoolers, or older children. Playing with younger children can be as easy as “spying” something of a certain color, as in, “I spy something red.” Older children can find things that rhyme with the clue or the clue can be a hint of how something is used.

Another word game that can be tailored to the age of the players is “20 Questions.” This game is played by one person thinking of a person, place, or thing and having the other person ask questions to discover what the answer is. For smaller children, it isn’t necessary to count how many questions are asked and they may need clues to help discover the answer. Choosing people they know as the answer is a great way to keep preschoolers busy while ensuring they have some success with the game. Older children can enjoy a more challenging game with no clues or more detailed answers. For example, the answer for an older child might be Stegosaurus instead of simply dinosaur.

Pass the Time with Elementary-Age Kids

The songs and hand movements that occupy toddlers and preschoolers will not engage kindergarteners and older children. For elementary-age kids, use fun competitions to keep them busy and quiet in public.

One of the easiest hand games to play is “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Each person will either show a flat hand for the paper, a fist for the rock, or a “V” sign for scissors. Rock beats scissors, paper beats rock, scissors beats paper and two of the same is a tie. Younger children may try to cheat by waiting for the parent to show his or her hand first. Practice will teach children that both players must show their hands at the same time.

Thumb war is another fun hand game for elementary-age kids. Smaller children do not have the hand strength or dexterity to play thumb war well. In thumb war, two people lock fingers of the same hand with their thumbs free. Starting with thumbs down, one or both players say, “One, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war.” The object of the game is to pin the other person’s thumb down while still holding hands. Younger children may try to use the other hand to win, but this is against the rules and should be discouraged.

Old-fashioned games can provide great ways to keep kids busy and quiet in public. Whether it is toddlers, preschoolers, or elementary-age kids, there are ways to pass the time without electronic toys while waiting in public. Songs with hand movements, guessing games, and hand games are ways for parents to reduce stress and help kids wait quietly in doctor’s offices, long lines, and exam rooms.


Author Bio: Robert Wilson is a senior editor at PaperHelp. He has experience managing content teams and working as an editor, leading him to his current position. In addition to creating articles that improve the quality of PaperHelp’s content, he is also interested in skill development and seeks to learn new things.


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